About a year ago, my daughters started noticing other peoples’ uniqueness: what does it mean to be blind? Why does he use a wheelchair? That friend looks like Grace!
When they inevitably ask “Why?” after I address their inquiries, I have adopted a script to which they chime in on response:
“Because we’re all….”
“Yes! Because the world would be awfully boring if we were all the same.”
Discussions about differences are prevalent in our country right now as some heartbreaking and hopefully revolutionary events are highlighting pervasive and devastating racial injustice. I have found books to be extremely useful for teaching my daughters about important, often sensitive issues. If you are interested in making your child’s bookshelf more diverse and informative about racism, I couldn’t find a more comprehensive resource than the incredible lists available on the Here Wee Read website and corresponding Amazon lists.
This post focuses on celebrating differences and promoting self-acceptance. These are some of our favorite books that we read (often over and over) to promote the discussion that all people are different, all people are worthy, and each of us is uniquely wonderful! If you’re looking for books that specifically talk about Down syndrome, check out this post. And if you’re unsure how to talk to your child about differences, see this one.
Different: A Great Thing to Be by Heather Avis
Those of you familiar with The Lucky Few podcast may recognize Heather Avis’ name. She published this book featuring her daughter Macy as the main character. While Macy has Down syndrome, this isn’t explicitly mentioned in the book. Instead, the short, rhyming prose focuses on the value of differences and including those who are different. It’s a quick, meaningful read with a clear message that still brings a lump to my throat every time I read it. Different is a great thing to be!
Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor wrote this book for children who feel different, like she did when she had to give herself insulin for juvenile diabetes. She explains and glorifies differences using examples of children with asthma, deafness, dyslexia, autism, and more, including a girl with Down syndrome named Grace! She relates the challenges faced by children with differences to challenges we all face and encourages the reader to ask questions if they are unsure why a friend has particular needs or behaves a certain way.
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates
This is a great book for even the youngest children, which highlights the similarities among our differences. We all have mouths, for example, and while they may look different, we can all use them to eat, talk, sing, and laugh. This is my go-to gift for young children who have a new sibling with Down syndrome.
I’m Basically a Unicorn by Melanie Hawkins
Like Just Ask, this book explores a variety of differences, including different appearances (like skin pigmentation), different abilities including Down syndrome and physical differences (like limb differences and height). The rhyming story is short and doesn’t give much information but instead celebrates each difference by comparing the featured child to a unique and beautiful unicorn. In the back of the book, each difference is discussed in a bit more detail. The pictures give a nice opportunity to discuss similarities and differences as a way of pointing out that we are more alike than different.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
This quirkily illustrated, rhyming anthem of self-acceptance is narrated by a little girl who knows she is awesome. No matter what she looks like, how she acts, or what others may think of her, she confidently proclaims, “I like myself because I’m me!”
Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Miller
Miller’s message emphasizes how we all have wonderful, unique gifts because of our differences. When we embrace our special interests and skills, we are able to share our distinctively wonderful selves with the world.
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
Based on the novel Wonder by the same author (also known as the book that became the movie that I still can’t bring myself to watch because I know I will cry ugly tears), this book introduces the reader to Augie, a boy who is teased for his facial differences. He gives us all a little perspective on how everyone is different, and the key to acceptance is how we see others’ uniqueness.
I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong
This book follows a kindergartner through her day, highlighting the times she chose to be brave and embrace individualism. It gives a glimpse into the opportunities and challenges of a typical school day and how, by being fierce, we can be our best selves.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Written for a school-age audience, this book focuses on how differences can alienate us. But as we start to share ourselves by telling our own stories, we can find others who share similarities and those who value us for our differences.
Be Who You Are by Todd Parr
Parr boasts a collection of titles that promote acceptance and positivity. I especially love his personal note to the reader in each book. This one focuses on celebrating who you are, no matter what you look like, the make-up of your family, what you eat, or where you live. My daughters love to join me in shouting the book’s chorus: “JUST BE WHO YOU ARE!”
You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman
I discovered Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born well before I had children. It is one of my all-time favorite books, and my go-to gift for new parents. Before Grace was verbal, she used to ask for by signing “cry,” because I couldn’t (and still can’t) get through it without choking back tears. While her prose is a bit poetic and often needs some explaining, Tillman’s books make great keepsakes and have beautiful meanings. When I learned a few years ago that Ms. Tillman has a granddaughter Down Syndrome, I appreciated her messages even more, feeling like they came from someone who “gets it.” Her book most appropriate for this list is You’re Here for a Reason, a beautifully illustrated story about how every person has the potential to positively impact the world, of which each of us is a critical part! (Truth told, I can’t make it through this one without crying, either.) Though not my favorite, You’re All Kinds of Wonderful, features a little girl with Down syndrome on the cover and discusses finding your special skills.
Looking for books specifically about DS or featuring children with DS? Check out Meriah Nichol’s list.
I hope you found a title or two from this list to add to your shelf. What did I miss? Share some of your favorites about differences and uniqueness in the comments below.
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